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News

Bringing farm to school, one Thursday at a time

NFSN Staff Thursday, April 09, 2015

By Jaime Lockwood, Development Director

Photos courtesy of the Center for Ecoliterary

The premise of California Thursdays is simple: encourage school districts to serve one locally sourced and freshly prepared meal per week to benefit kids, local economies and the environment.  It’s a program the Center for Ecoliteracy and Oakland Unified School District piloted during the 2013-14 school year. By October 2014, when the California Thursdays program was rolled out statewide, 15 school districts were on board. 

Despite its relative newness, California Thursdays is already demonstrating its impact. By last fall, four of the six largest school districts in California had signed up, including Los Angeles Unified with its 1,309 schools. Combined with the 14 school districts in the original cohort, these participating school districts serve 190 million meals annually – approximately 20% of school meals in California. Now with 42 school districts from across the state joining, California Thursdays is poised to make an unprecedented impact on local procurement in California.

In February, the Center for Ecoliteracy graciously invited me to a communications and media training for participating California Thursday school districts to learn more about the program. The program is designed to take much of the guesswork and behind-the-scenes research of sourcing local food out of the equation for school food programs.  It also trains school districts in communicating the value of California Thursdays across their community to garner support.

As I sat through this California Thursdays training (one of several that the districts participate in throughout the school year), it was clear that the initiative is the result of careful listening, planning and thought partnering on behalf of the Center for Ecoliteracy and school food staff from across the state. Their hard work has resulted in a comprehensive set of supports designed to address the most common challenges schools face in sourcing and preparing fresh, local food in school kitchens, including:

  • A list of California-grown/produced foods that meet the federal reimbursable guidelines – and the vendors who sell them
  • 21 recipes featuring California-grown fruits and vegetables, including nutritional information
  • Trainings to help school districts broadly communicate the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of California Thursdays to various members of their community
  • Resources in both English and Spanish to help engage parents in the discussions about school food
  • A network of school food service/nutrition directors who can reach out to each other for continuing support and ideas

California Thursdays stands out as a state-level innovation that is ripe for replication across the country. A similar program, Minnesota Thursdays, has already followed California's lead. To riff on their tag lines, what if all Thursdays were Arkansas Thursdays, West Virginia Thursdays, Rhode Island Thursdays, and Wyoming Thursdays? What if all states had initiatives that supported their schools in improving the quality of food served, building relationships with local farmers, and helping students and their communities reclaim their food heritage?

Then perhaps, one day, every day will be Local Food Day in schools. 

Cultivating Food Justice with Farm to School

NFSN Staff Wednesday, April 08, 2015
By Anna Mullen, Communications Intern

What does it mean for food to be just? And what factors must be considered in cultivating food justice? These questions were on the table at Just Food? A Forum on Justice in the Food System, recently held in Cambridge, Mass. Hosted by the Harvard University Food Law Society and Food Better Initiative, the event brought together activists, scholars and practitioners to explore the complex legal, political, health and environmental aspects of building a just food system. 



Food justice is interconnected with many other social justice causes, including farmworkers rights, racial justice and the environment. This multidimensional understanding of food justice requires that a plurality of voices be included in creating our vision of a just food system. Indeed, food is everyone’s issue, because everyone eats! Therefore, everyone has a hand in cultivating food justice. 

So, what’s the role of the farm to school movement in helping create a more just food system? 

  • Farm to school educates the next generation of conscious eaters: As Dr. Molly Anderson reminded listeners in her keynote address, the road to food justice is long, and will require years of activism. Farm to school is working today to help educate the next generation of food advocates. In classrooms, school gardens and cafeterias, more than 23.5 million students are engaged in farm to school across the country. By teaching kids about where food comes from – who grows food, how it is harvested, how to prepare delicious meals – farm to school is cultivating conversations about just food among our nation’s youngest eaters. 
  • Farm to school builds a spirit of inclusivity: Food is a bridge between people, communities and cultures – everybody eats! As a panelist at Just Food, Sunny Young, our Mississippi State Lead, shared how Good Food for Oxford Schools has partnered with other local organizations and churches to make healthy food a community affair. Their annual Gospel Choir Showcase in front of Oxford City Hall features local gospel music, dancing, healthy food samples and farm to school presentations from students and staff. The event brings the wider Oxford community together to celebrate the connections between the farm and their forks. Creative community collaboration can bring food change from the classroom out into the streets, and even to the steps of City Hall.
  • Farm to school can connect all students to healthy, local food: Many of our nation’s children eat two of their meals at school every day, so what better place to level the playing field on access to good food? Our Policy Associate, Natalie Talis, explained to the audience of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization workshop how the Farm to School Act of 2015 will expand and improve the popular USDA Farm to School Grant Program to reach more schools nationwide. And not only more schools, but also more preschools; critically important summer food service sites; after school programs; tribal schools and producers; and beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Collectively, these programs offer millions of children access to healthy, local food, irrespective of race, socioeconomic status or geographic location. Farm to school can connect all students to good food, and Congress has an opportunity to expand the programs supporting these efforts with the Farm to School Act. 
  • Farm to school supports small farmers: Student presenters from The Food Project emphasized that we need small-scale farmers in our communities to help know our food. Farmers make great food educators, and they’re also valuable contributors to local economies. Farm to school activities open the doors to an institutional market that spent an estimated $385 million on local food for schools during the 2011-2012 school year. Furthermore, farm to school facilitates farmer-community relationships, diverse markets and encourages grower cooperatives. It’s a win for farmers and the communities they help feed.

The National Farm to School Network is bound together by the vision that vibrant local and regional food systems are essential to the health of our children, farms, environment, economy and communities. It’s a vision that we believe is integral to the work of food justice. Join us





This week in farm to school: 4/7/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 



Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: Colorado Farm to School Task Force, Wednesdays, April 8 - May 6, 5 p.m. EST

Evaluation Made Easy: How to Evaluate your Farm to School Activities

The fourth (and last) five-week training series on the Farm to School Evaluation Toolkit from Colorado Farm to School Task Force and Spark Policy Institute starts tomorrow. The series is free and made possible by a USDA Farm to School Grant. Participation in the live webinars includes the following benefits: eligible for five contact hours of continuing education credits, participation in the F2S Evaluation Toolkit Forum for peer-to-peer learning, and up to four hours of free technical assistance to plan/implement your F2S evaluation. Register here.


2. The Chef Ann Foundation Webinar, April 14, 1 p.m. EST
Your Guide to the Lunch Box 
This webinar will feature a guided tour of the newly expanded school food resource website “The Lunch Box” and a Q&A with national school food expert Chef Beth Collins. The Lunch Box is dedicated to supporting school food service teams with technical assistants for shifting their food programs from a reliance on processed foods to developing whole food-based, scratch-cooked meals. Sign up here

Policy & Action

1. Second Bi-Annual Farm to School Census 

The USDA Farm to School Census is a crucial tool for gathering information about the state of the farm to school movement. The first census was conducted in 2013, and USDA is now seeking updated information through the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census. The Census questionnaire was distributed to school districts through state agencies the week of March 16. School district submissions must be received by May 29, 2015. Questions about the Census? Please contact matthew.benson@fns.usda.gov.

2. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015.

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Kid Chefs: Join the Fourth Annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge!
First Lady Michelle Obama is teaming up with PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host the fourth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge to promote cooking and healthy eating among young people across the nation. The challenge invites kids ages 8-12 to join a parent or guardian in creating an original recipe that is healthy, affordable, and delicious. One winner from each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia will be selected and have the opportunity to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” here at the White House this summer where a selection of the winning recipes will be served. Visit pbs.org/lunchtimechallenge to learn more about the Heathy Lunchtime Challenge and submit your recipe by April 30.

2. Garden Manager, Slide Ranch, Muir Beach, CA
Reporting to the Director of Operations, the Garden Manager is an integral member of the Ranch Operations Team.  Specific responsibilities include all aspects of maintaining a certified organic garden, native plant restoration, teaching and training Slide Ranch Teachers-in-Residence (TIRs), work with program staff to utilize the garden as a teaching environment for youth education, train and manage garden volunteers, and provide sufficient produce for daily program lessons as well as for resident staff consumption. This position requires living on-site in housing provided by Slide Ranch. For more information, visit the Slide Ranch website

3. Director of Development, Slide Ranch, Muir Beach, CA
Slide Ranch seeks a Director of Development who will manage all aspects of Slide’s Development Office: Annual Fund, Major Gifts, Special Events, Grants, Capital Campaign  and Communications. The Director of Development reports to and works closely with the Executive Director to create and implement development strategies and practices that will help Slide Ranch sustain and grow its operations and fulfill its mission. For more information, visit the Slide Ranch website

4. Request for Applications, Southern Regional Learning Lab Evaluator 
The Food Options for Children in the United States (FOCUS) Southern Regional Learning Lab (SRLL) engages seven school districts to leverage their combined buying power and redirect purchasing practices to access more wholesome food. The SRLL has just entered Phase One of a three-year implementation and is beginning work in two food categories: chicken and produce. FOCUS seeks an evaluation contractor (individual or team) that will work closely with program participants and staff to refine and implement an evaluation protocol designed during the SRLL Assessment Phase. The contractor will conduct evaluation activities for Implementation Phase One (April 2015 - June 2016) and ideally will continue over the duration of the project. Click here to download the SRLL Evaluation Contractor Request for Applications. Applications are due Sunday, April 19.  

5. Food Services Director, Austin Independent School District
This position is the chief administrator for supporting the facilitation and implementation of program areas within Food Services. Incumbent provides instruction and technical supervision to staff on non-routine and policy matters, especially in areas requiring oversight to ensure compliance. More information can be found on the AISD careers website

Farm to school in the news
Why 2015 is a big year for child nutrition
The new Farm to School Act and the proposed renewal of federal child nutrition programs should make this an important time for kids and healthy eating. (via Mother Nature Network)

How One Visionary Changed School Food in Detroit 
With a focus on healthier foods and local farms, National Farm to School Network Advisor Betti Wiggins has led Detroit Public School’s +55K students through a food revolution. (via Civil Eats

Helping Food Hubs Connect Local Farmers To VT Schools
A new online tool made possible with a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant connects new Vermont farmers and food producers with their local communities using food hubs. (via My Champlain Valley)

Read past editions of This Week  for more funding opportunities, webinars and events, jobs, and ways to take action to support farm to school growth across the country. 





Encouraging Future Farmers in North Carolina

NFSN Staff Friday, April 03, 2015

By Laura Fieselman, Executive Assistant

“I hope people will learn to revere farmers. And farmland too.” 
-North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler  

Farm to school doesn’t just happen in the cafeteria; it takes place in the classroom too. That was the case recently when North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of the university’s new Carolina Cooks, Carolina Eats initiative. The event afforded students an opportunity to interact with farm to school on a policy level, asking the Commissioner about North Carolina’s ports and the Department of Agriculture’s budget. It was also a chance for Commissioner Troxler to share what he’s most passionate about: farming. 


North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, speaks to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

A farmer himself, the Commissioner is no stranger to teaching and instilling ag excitement in young people. Commissioner Troxler encouraged the class to consider agriculture as a career – and not just farming, but also processing, transportation and the science of crop development. As the local food movement continues to take hold with schools, colleges, hospitals, and other institutional buyers across the country, opportunities for new farmers and food businesses are expanding exponentially.  

The North Carolina Farm to School program has been serving fresh, local produce in the state’s lunchrooms since 1997. Originally a pilot project with strawberries, today the program has grown to serve tomatoes, zucchini, collards and sweet potatoes, along with blueberries, cantaloupes, apples, peaches and sprite melons. During the 2013-2014 school year, nearly a million dollars worth of North Carolina produce was served to the state’s students in farm to school programs. That’s a lot of food dollars reinvested in local and regional agriculture. 

The National Farm to School Network believes that vibrant local and regional food systems are essential for building healthy kids and healthy communities. In North Carolina, Troxler is helping students learn this in the classroom, and encouraging them to taste it too. 

Learn more about how farm to school is a win for kids, win for farmers and win for communities here.   






This week in farm to school: 3/31/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 




Funding & Grants

1. Keep Spreading the Word about Community Eligibility

To provide ample time to school districts to consider implementing community eligibility, this month is a great time provide them with a variety of opportunities to learn more about the option and the success other school districts are having. Food Research and Action Center has updated some of its resources to help you spread the word to districts: FRAC’s Community Eligibility One-Pager (pdf) and Sample CEP Presentation Slides (PowerPoint file). 


2. Seeds of Change® Grant Program

To support the mission of the 1% Fund, Seeds of Change® is hosting the 4th annual Seeds of Change® Grant Program, which encourages communities nationwide to apply for funding to support community or school garden and farming programs. The application asks how the program helps build a healthier, more sustainable community and how it teaches people where their food comes from. The submission period for the grant program has been extended until April 6. A total of $200,000 in grant money is available. From April 9 through April 27, 2015, applications will be available for public voting at www.seedsofchangegrant.com.


Webinars & Events
1. Grow. Share. Prepare. Food Systems Program Training, Austin, June 8-10
Sustainable Food Center will offer its fourth annual Grow. Share. Prepare. Food Systems Program Training at its facility in Austin, Texas June 8-10, 2015. The intensive three-day workshop will be lead by SFC staff and partners and is designed for community-based organizations, local government entities, and other groups interested in sustainable and local food systems programming. A limited number of scholarships will be available, based on interest and need. Registration deadline is April 24, 2015, but early registration is strongly encouraged due to limited space.

Policy & Action

1. Second Bi-Annual Farm to School Census 

The USDA Farm to School Census is a crucial tool for gathering information about state of the farm to school movement. The first census was conducted in 2013, and USDA is now seeking updated information through the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census. The Census questionnaire was distributed to school districts through state agencies the week of March 16. School district submissions must be received by May 29, 2015. Questions about the Census? Please contact matthew.benson@fns.usda.gov.

2. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015.

Jobs & Opportunities
1. USDA Seeks Reviewers for Grant Programs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service announced it is seeking reviewers to evaluate grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program. Applications are due April 27. Additional details can be found here.

2. USDA Seeks Peer Reviewers for BFRDP Proposals
The USDA received a record number of BFRDP applications for 2015, and are looking for additional peer reviewers to serve on the panel this year. Panels are comprised of farmers and ranchers, practitioners, CBO/NGO representatives, academic personnel, agency staff, as well as others. To nominate yourself, send an email to bfrdp@nifa.usda.gov with “reviewer” in the subject line.  Include your contact information (organization, address, email, phone); a brief description of your areas of expertise or experience related to beginning farmers and ranchers; and whether or not you plan to be a participant on a proposal this round. Deadline for nominations is Friday, April 3, 2015. For additional information, email BFRDP National Program Leader, Jill Auburn, at jauburn@nifa.usda.gov

Farm to school in the news
Empowerment from the Earth: Reclaiming Cherokee health and heritage
Several community and youth efforts are using gardens to reconnect the Cherokee people to local food, health and a collective heritage defined by knowledge of the earth. (via Mountain Xpress)

Locally grown veggies now part of school lunches
More than 1,000 heads of locally grown lettuce now are being transported to 16 Gainesville schools each month. It's part of the Farm to School Work Hub. (via Gainesville Sun)

School garden helps emphasize healthy eating to Cannon students
Cannon Elementary school in South Carolina has received grants that will allow students to design gardens, learn how to plant and nurture foods and incorporate those foods into school lunch programs. (via GoUpstate)

Read past editions of This Week here on our blog for more funding opportunities, webinars and events, jobs, and ways to take action to support farm to school growth across the country. 

This week in farm to school: 3/24/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 




Funding & Grants
1. USDA Announces $96 Million Available to Expand Access to Healthy Food, Support Rural Economies

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $96.8 million in grants to fund innovative projects designed to support specialty crop producers, local food entrepreneurs, and farm to school efforts. The grant programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service include the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which covers two types of grants: the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program. Also included in the announcement is the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Farm to School Grant Program, designed to bring local foods into the school cafeteria.

With $5 million in funding available, the four different types of USDA Farm to School grants are:
  • Planning grants - to help schools get started
  • Implementation grants - to enable schools to expand existing programs
  • Support service grants - allows community partners such as nonprofit entities, Indian tribal nations, state and local agencies, and agriculture producers to provide broad reaching support to schools in their efforts to bring local products into the cafeteria 
  • Training grants - to disseminate best practices and spread strategies known to succeed 
Proposals for planning, implementation, and support service grants are due by May 20, 2015. Letters of intent for training grants are due by April 30, 2015. More information about the Farm to School Grant Program, upcoming webinars relevant to applicants, and sample grant applications can be found at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school-grant-program.

2. Special Grant Call from Southern SARE Focuses on Local and Regional Food Systems
A special grant call to fund research on local and regional food systems across the Southern region is now available from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) program and the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC).The special grant, part of SSARE’s Sustainable Community Innovations Grant (SCIG) program, is open to any individuals, nonprofit organizations, for-profit organizations, governmental organizations and/or educational organizations located in the Southern region.

This grant is not to fund the development of individual local and regional food systems, but to fund research defining, evaluating and understanding the impacts of local and regional food systems on sustainable agriculture. Grant proposal deadline is May 4, 2015. The project is funded for one year at a maximum of $35,000. Download the Call for Proposal to follow the guidelines for writing and submitting the grant application.

Webinars & Events
1. Third Annual Native Food Sovereignty Summit, Oct. 26-29, Green Bay, Wisconsin
First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin will co-host the Third Annual Food Sovereignty Summit in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Oct. 26-29, 2015, at the Radisson Green Bay Hotel and Conference Center. At the event, Native American communities come together to learn from one another to promote Native health, wellness and food sovereignty. This conference sold out well ahead of time the previous two years, so be sure to guarantee your attendance by registering now at www.firstnations.org/summit. Find more information here

Policy & Action

1. Second Bi-Annual Farm to School Census 

The USDA Farm to School Census is a crucial tool for gathering information about the state of the farm to school movement. The first census was conducted in 2013, and USDA is now seeking updated information through the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census. The Census questionnaire was distributed to school districts through state agencies the week of March 16. School district submissions must be received by May 29, 2015. Questions about the Census? Please contact matthew.benson@fns.usda.gov.


2. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

Jobs & Opportunities
1. FoodCorps Service Member Application Deadline Approaching
FoodCorps service member applications are due March 31st. Applicants are encouraged to finish their applications, and to reach out to FoodCorps with any final questions by emailing serve@foodcorps.org. Organizations can help spread the word about the deadline by tweeting, sharing on Facebook, or doing personal outreach to people you think would make great candidates.

Farm to school in the news
Farm to School’s taste-test program steers kids from french fries to kale
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Growing Minds Farm to School program offers farm fresh taste-tests at schools and helps students develop healthy eating habits. (via Mountain Xpress

Farm to School on the Rise in Arkansas
Organized farm to school activity is relatively new in Arkansas and the surrounding area. Stakeholders gathered at the Farm to School Forum in Arkansas to discuss efforts for healthier school meals and food education. (via KUAF Radio)

At Dubuque alternative school, sowing seeds of learning
By cultivating the school’s first on-site garden, the novice gardeners at an Iowa high school will learn about collaboration, problem-solving and the importance of community involvement. (via The Des Moines Register)

Read past editions of This Week here on our blog for more funding opportunities, webinars and events, jobs, and ways to take action to support farm to school growth across the country. 

This week in farm to school: 3/18/15

NFSN Staff Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 




Funding & Grants

1. FY16 USDA Farm to School Grant RFA 
USDA is currently accepting applications for the next round of USDA farm to school grants. The application deadline is May 20, 2015 for planning, implementation and support service grant applications. Training grant letters of inquiry are due April 30, 2015. For more information please see: http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school-grant-program. (There is a webinar on March 25th at 1 pm EST to learn more.)

2. Maya Wiley Fellowship Program, The Center for Social Inclusion
The Maya Wiley Fellowship program celebrates and supports grassroots leaders seeking to achieve racial equity through structurally transformative policy strategies and campaigns. The fellowship is open through a nomination process and provides a $25,000 stipend to support a leader’s existing work or create an opportunity to expand or scale up that work. Visit the Center for Social Inclusion’s website for further information. 

3. Breakfast and Every Kid Healthy Grants, Action for Healthy Kids
Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) is now accepting School Grants for Healthy Kids applications for the 2015-2016 school year. Breakfast and Every Kid Healthy Grants up to $2,500 are available. Eligible schools may apply to pilot or expand their School Breakfast Programs, pilot universal school breakfast, and/or funding physical activity and nutrition initiatives working towards healthy schools certification. To learn more, tune in for an informational webinar on March 18 (Breakfast Grants) or March 24 (Every Kid Healthy Grants). Apply by May 1, 2015 for a 2015-2016 School Grant for Healthy Kids.

4. USDA Announces Funding Available for Specialty Crop and Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Programs
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of more than $66.5 million in funding for research and extension activities to address the needs of America's specialty crop industry and solve critical organic agricultural production issues. The grants will be funded through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. Both programs are administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. Read the full USDA press release here

Webinars & Events
1. NFSN Webinar, April 14, 1 p.m. EST
Making change, part two: Q&A with the leaders behind state policy success
State-level farm to school policy work is driving a broader expansion of farm to school across the country. Thirty-nine states and D.C. now have farm to school policies on the books, and 2014 saw a 64 percent increase in successfully enacted legislation over 2013. This webinar will feature a Q&A with some of the leaders behind the most successful and comprehensive state policy campaigns. Learn what works, what doesn't and how you can make change in your state. Register here

2. The Chef Ann Foundation Webinar, April 14, 1 p.m. EST
Your Guide to the Lunch Box 
This webinar will feature a guided tour of the newly expanded school food resource website  “The Lunch Box” and a Q&A with national school food expert Chef Beth Collins. The Lunch Box is dedicated to supporting school food service teams with technical assistants for shifting their food programs from a reliance on processed foods to developing whole food based scratch cooked meals. Sign up here

3. USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach, Grant Programs Teleconferences
The Office of Advocacy and Outreach will be hosting public teleconferences on its grant programs listed below that are currently active withinwww.grants.gov. The call-in information for both sessions is (800) 369-1617 and the passcode is 5274714. 

March 18, 2015, at 2:00pm EST - Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the 2501 Program). 

March 19, 2015, at 2:00pm EST - Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center


Policy & Actions

1. Second Bi-Annual Farm to School Census 
The USDA Farm to School Census is a crucial tool for gathering information about the state of the farm to school movement. The first census was conducted in 2013, and USDA is now seeking updated information through the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census. The Census questionnaire is being distributed to school districts through state agencies the week of March 16 (this week). School district submissions must be received by May 29, 2015. Questions about the Census? Please contact matthew.benson@fns.usda.gov.

2. State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2014
The recently released State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2014 offers a comprehensive review of state-level farm to school policies, analysis of national trends, and advocacy guidance for those working to advance the farm to school movement across the country. The survey is designed to offer farm to school advocates a roadmap, allowing them to learn from the success of other states and copy their efforts. Download the full document on the National Farm to School Network's website or check out this map to see how your state compares. The survey was prepared by researchers at Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems.

3. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

4. New School Meal Regulations Increase Fruit Consumption and Do Not Increase Total Plate Waste
new study published in Childhood Obesity confirms that students are consuming healthier food at school as a result of updated meal standards. According to research results, “Students respond positively to the news lunches. They consumed more fruit, threw away less of the entrees and vegetables, and consumed the same about of milk. Overall, the revised meal standards and policies appear to have significantly lowered plate waste in school cafeterias.” Read more here.  

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Local Food Summer Internship Opportunities, Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Illinois Stewardship Alliance is now hiring for two part-time internship positions: Local Food and Policy Outreach Intern and Local Food and Sustainable Agriculture Outreach Intern. To be considered, please email isa@ilstewards.org with a cover letter and resume no later than April 17, 2015. More information about these opportunities can be found on the Illinois Stewardship Alliance website

2. Students Wanted for 2nd Annual Native Youth in Food & Ag Summer Leadership Summit
Applications are now open for the second annual Summer Leadership Summit for Native Youth in Food & Agriculture at the University of Arkansas School of Law! The program is looking for student applications from American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian youth between the ages of 13 and 18 who are passionate about food and agricultural production and have the courage to lead their Tribes and communities into the future. For more information and application details, please visit The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law website. 


Farm to school in the news
Why Some Schools Serve Local Food And Others Can't (Or Won't)
An examination of real and perceived challenges of sourcing local food in school by Tracie McMillan. (via NPR)

Students enjoy local farm bounty through partnership
The Vista Unified School District is now a direct beneficiary of its prime location by partnering with Solutions Farms to provide the highest grade organic salad greens and basil to its cafeterias, as well as farm-based educational opportunities for its students. (via Seaside Courier)

Reconnecting Children with Local Food and the Land
The trend of nature-based and farm-to-school programs has been taking off. The Cornucopia Project in Peterborough is a perfect example, integrating curriculum about the natural world, and helping schools create their own gardens. (via Sentinel Source)


Seed Change on its way in three states

NFSN Staff Thursday, March 12, 2015


By Anupama Joshi, Executive Director

Today marks the launch of Seed Change, the National Farm to School Network’s major new initiative to change the dynamics of farm to school at the state level in support of growing healthier kids and better economic opportunities for small farmers. 

Every state has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to improving community health, tackling childhood obesity and supporting farmers and local food systems, including funding and people power. With a $1.5 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, we are able to kick off Seed Change in three states that are poised for significant growth in farm to school programming. 

Seed Change by the numbers:

  • 1.8 million students in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania engaged
  • 100 mini grants to emerging farm to school sites for local food purchasing, school garden activities, nutrition education, retrofitted kitchens, food service staff training and more 
  • Six farm to school demonstration districts and training hubs established
  • Goal of 10 percent growth in farm to school sites, student participation and number of school gardens in each state in 18 months

Leveraging the power of existing partnerships and networks in each state, Seed Change will provide the direct investment and proactive outreach needed to significantly increase the number of schools, children and farmers participating in farm to school activities and the dollars spent on locally sourced food. 

The project will be coordinated locally by NFSN partners the Kentucky State Department of Agriculture, Market Umbrella in Louisiana and The Food Trust in Pennsylvania, who will lead statewide outreach efforts, trainings and technical assistance to create a vibrant and active farm to school network in each state for long term program sustainability.

Learn more about Seed Change here, and sign up for our e-newsletter to stay updated about applying for mini-grants this spring. 

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